This Is Not MADE Up!
A few COVID-19 related Eyecare notes:
Embrace the mask
There are so many mask-induced annoyances! Fogged glasses, external ear discomfort, absence of visible facial expressions, failure to remember the mask leading to inability to enter most places of business, etc.
Here’s another one that is plaguing mask wearers and their eye doctors everywhere: Mask-Associated Dry Eye (MADE).
Even when the mask is well-made, exhaled air is channeled over the top of the mask onto the ocular surface. This increased airflow leads to evaporation on the cornea, which in turn contributes to feelings of ocular dryness, grittiness, itching, and irritation. There may even be reflex tearing, as the eye tries to compensate for the dryness by producing excess compensatory tears.
What’s the solution?
Consider taping the top edge of the mask, to reduce airflow from escaping towards your eyes.
Use artificial tears liberally to soothe the ocular surface. I recommend preservative-free brands if you’re going to use multiple drops during the day (as is usually appropriate).
Take a digital break! Screen use of any kind has been associated with reduced blinking frequency, which will aggravate dry eyes.
For persons with persistent problems, consider getting a tear duct plug. These so-called punctal plugs are like plugs for your sink — whatever amount of tears you make or artificial tears you place, they’re going to stick around longer if the drain is occluded. A simple and often very effective way to reduce dry eye symptoms.
Someday, we won’t have to wear masks in public again (soon, please!); in the meantime, try following the advice I’ve made for MADE!
Benjamin H Ticho, MD